It’s funny how easily I sat down to write last week’s post, and how much I’m struggling with this one. I’m good at asking questions and pointing out problems. I’m good at talking about what’s wrong. Coming up with an actionable game plan for fixing those problems? That’s a little more challenging. But if I don’t, I’m no better than the students who complain and complain but don’t do anything to fix the problem. So how am I creating opportunities for innovation in my teaching?
Well, I’m trying, but I’m still so new at it that I don’t have any kind of “success” track record yet. I’m trying to create opportunities for innovation, but my first two dabbles – StrengthsQuest and StartEdUp’s Innovation Exchange Challenge – have yet to provide demonstrable results. I’m slightly dreading parent/teacher conferences in a few weeks because my classroom has been so non-traditional this quarter, and I don’t have much to show for it.
This is what I need to keep telling myself. I have a few weeks left before the end of the quarter, so I just need to adjust my focus a bit. The webchat with Alice Keeler gave me some good ideas of that. I really want to adjust how I give feedback to my students. Grades are beyond useless in my class. I hand back papers only to watch them be shoved in a binder without a second glance. We don’t post grades online, so unless I tell them or they come ask, students have no idea how they’re doing in my class until quarter report cards come out. Talk about a delay in feedback! So I need to find actionable ways to get them immediate feedback.
I do that a bit with vocabulary quizzes. They grade their own work immediately after taking the quiz, but there still isn’t any follow-up or opportunity to improve, so it still isn’t actionable, even if it’s immediate. With all the overwhelming ideas being thrown at me in these past two weeks, I think that’s where I need to zero in my focus right now. Feedback. Actionable, immediate feedback pointed at clear learning outcomes. And I need to get my hands on a copy of Ditch That Homework. Maybe I could bring it conferences to help get parents on board with me turning my class on its head this year….
Feedback now is better than feedback later. — Alice Keeler
I’m not here to distribute points. I’m here for kids to learn. — also Alice Keeler
Once when I was starting in a new (temporary) position, the principal commented that the teacher I was replacing had been one of the “movers and shakers” instrumental in moving the school forward in technology. I knew and highly respected the teacher. She inspired me to be the best teacher I possibly could be. But a driving force in technology? I didn’t think that could be me. I have a lot of strengths and I’m confident in my role as a teacher, but technology does not drive how I teach. I use it, but I would never be considered a “mover and shaker” in the field, and if that’s what they were looking for, then I wasn’t the right fit for the job long term (and despite their glowing reviews of my work, they didn’t offer the permanent position to me. Maybe that’s one reason why?)
That phrase stuck with me, though. That particular teacher embodied the kind of impact I want my teaching to have. I’ve known for a long time that my personal teaching style is very different from hers. I could never be her, but I am incredibly inspired by her. So the question has followed me – how could I be a “mover and shaker” in my own way? How could I follow her example without actually being motivated by technology itself?
I’ve seen grand, sweeping problems in education for years — problems that no app or digital platform could inherently fix. I’ve been asking a lot of questions without having a clue how to answer them. Until now. I’m starting to see glimpses of what’s possible, and maybe I can be a “mover” of educational practices in my own sphere of influence, however small that may be right now.